More Top Stories

Rugby league

Moana target 2025 World Cup

11 November 2022

Te Tuhi Kelly: The pros and cons of increasing the size of Cabinet or voting by proxy

Wednesday 20 March 2024 | Written by Te Tuhi Kelly | Published in Editorials, Opinion


Te Tuhi Kelly: The pros and cons of increasing the size of Cabinet or voting by proxy
Parliament of the Cook Islands. Photo: SUPPLIED 23090623

Once again, a couple of controversial amendments that more than meets the eye, I suspect. Would increasing the size of Cabinet or voting by proxy have been mooted if the Democrats as a proper Opposition were in fact an opposition, writes Te Tuhi Kelly, Leader of the Progressive Party of the Cook Islands.

Let’s look at this dispassionately, firstly increasing the size of a Government Cabinet can have both advantages and disadvantages. Here are some pros and cons:

Arguments for increasing Cabinet membership:

  1. Better representation: A larger Cabinet allows for more diverse representation of various constituencies, demographics, and interests within the government, potentially leading to more inclusive decision-making.
  2. Specialisation: With a larger Cabinet, it’s possible to appoint Ministers with specialised expertise in specific areas, which can lead to more informed and effective policy making.
  3. Workload distribution: More Ministers can help distribute the workload, allowing for more focused attention on different policy areas and reducing the burden on individual Ministers.
  4. Enhanced decision making: A larger pool of Ministers can bring diverse perspectives to discussions and debates, leading to more robust decision-making processes.
  5. Political stability: The additional Cabinet Ministers provides a broader range of political factions or parties in the Cabinet who can promote stability by reducing the likelihood of dissent and increasing the likelihood of coalition support.

Argumenta against increasing Cabinet membership:

  1. Cost: A larger Cabinet means more ministerial salaries, administrative expenses, and potentially increased bureaucracy, which can strain government budgets and resources.
  2. Coordination challenges: With more Ministers, coordination and communication among various departments can become more complex, potentially leading to inefficiencies and conflicts.
  3. Decision-making delays: More voices in the Cabinet can lead to longer decision-making processes as consensus-building becomes more challenging.
  4. Risk of inefficiency: A larger Cabinet may lead to overlaps in responsibilities and jurisdictional disputes between ministries, resulting in inefficiencies and confusion in governance.
  5. Difficulty in accountability: With a larger Cabinet, it can be more challenging to hold individual Ministers accountable for their actions or decisions, as the focus may become diluted among the many members.

When it comes to proxy voting, whilst some members of the public may be opposed to proxy voting, there will be those who will not care a whit and others who will follow along like lemmings with the result that by the time they wake up, it is too little too late.

Whether Members of Parliament should vote by proxy is a matter of debate and depends on various factors such as our parliamentary system, the circumstances surrounding the need for proxy voting, and the potential implications on democratic representation.

Arguments for proxy voting:

1. Accessibility: Proxy voting can make it easier for MPs who may be unable to physically attend parliamentary sessions due to illness, disability, or other unavoidable reasons to still have their voices heard and votes counted.

2. Efficiency: Proxy voting can streamline the legislative process by ensuring that votes are cast even when MPs cannot be present, thus preventing delays in decision-making.

3. Representativeness: Proxy voting can help ensure that constituents are still represented in Parliament even if their elected representative cannot be physically present to vote.

4. Flexibility: Proxy voting can provide flexibility for MPs with busy schedules or conflicting commitments, allowing them to fulfil their legislative duties effectively.

Arguments against proxy voting:

1. Accountability: Proxy voting may weaken the direct accountability of MPs to their constituents since the decision-making process is mediated through proxies rather than the elected representatives themselves.

2. Potential for Abuse: Proxy voting opens the possibility of abuse, with MPs potentially delegating their voting responsibilities to others without proper oversight or accountability.

3. Risk of manipulation: Proxy voting systems could be vulnerable to manipulation or coercion, with proxies being pressured to vote in a particular way against their own judgment or the interests of their constituents.

4. Undermining parliamentary debate: Proxy voting may discourage meaningful debate and engagement in parliamentary proceedings if MPs can simply delegate their voting responsibilities rather than actively participating in discussions and deliberations.

The decision on whether Members of Parliament should vote by proxy depends on the specific context and the balance between the advantages of accessibility and efficiency and the potential drawbacks related to accountability and democratic representation.

Any implementation of increasing the size of Cabinet and proxy voting would need to include safeguards to mitigate risks and ensure that it does not undermine the integrity of the legislative process. This is an area that the Government needs to be aware of if they are to get this over the line. If they cannot give 100 per cent concrete assurances, then it may well come back to bite them and be a campaign focus for the Opposition.